The U.S. economy is showing new signs of growth—and that’s great news for the country as well as President Obama’s reelection effort.
Friday morning, it was announced that the economy added 200,000 jobs in December, lowering the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent—the lowest in three years, marking six consecutive months of job growth.
The economic collapse in the fall of 2008 hit its nadir in January 2009, when President Obama was inaugurated, but once the free fall stopped, the recovery has been rocky in this Great Recession.
The U.S. economy has been showing signs of stability in recent months, especially compared with the constant atmosphere of crisis in Europe, but this is objectively good news on its own merits.
Americans vote with their wallets, and the economic trend tends to determine an incumbent’s reelection fortunes. Yes, 8.5 percent is still high unemployment, but the trend is President Obama’s friend.
Roughly one year out from his 1984 landslide reelection, Reagan had an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, but it felt like progress compared with the 10 percent rate in 1982. In addition, GDP growth was rocketing at 8 percent
in the third quarter of '83 and continued at that clip into early '84. That’s why Reagan could campaign on a new spirit of optimism—"Morning in America."
President Obama isn't looking at GDP growth anywhere near that neighborhood, and there’s no scenario I can envision where he wins 40 states, let alone Reagan’s 49 states. But economy is recovering—and that’s good news for the country.
Some Republicans will grouse at the new data because it makes their economic-incompetence argument harder to make. Those folks are like the conservative newsrooms who cheered when Chicago lost their Olympic bid: hyperpartisan rot had distorted their sense of the national interest.
To be sure, there are still long-term problems with the U.S. economy, especially the weight of sky-high deficits and debt. But signs of growth are welcome and needed, especially for the squeezed American middle class.